In just the latest episode of censorship in the prophet’s name, Muslim activist groups now want reporters to stop using the word “Islamist.” “Islamist” is an important and useful word — it identifies the politically motivated Muslims who are intent on injecting sharia into Western law and culture, and distinguishes them from other followers of Islam.
There is no question that sharia is anathema to the American sense of individual liberty and civil rights, so actual Islamists must hide behind Muslims who have no interest in bringing Muslim Brotherhood–style regulations to America. Uninhibited discussions of the conditions in Western Europe’s sharia enclaves evoke instant rejection of similar arrangements here in the U.S. Thus, the conversation must be stripped of frank terms such as “Islamist.” Those who seek to promote sharia are anxious to bypass debate on the matter on the way to cultural domination.
If it can happen in London — as it has — it can happen anywhere in the civilized world. Caving to Islamist demands and criminalizing public debate as hate speech set the stage in Britain for Islamist vigilantes to accost Londoners who violate sharia’s rules on modesty, alcohol consumption, and homosexuality. Days ago, CNN’s OutFront covered the most recent manifestations of Muslim gang tyranny in Britain, Denmark, and Spain. The feature also showed Islamist bands demanding that Britain’s sharia courts, now merely endowed with civil authority, expand to prosecute criminal actions, including “un-Islamic behavior in Muslim areas.”
Two recent video recordings – removed by YouTube, then reposted at alternate sites — show Islamist “patrols” staking out turf in areas of London while declaring, “This is not-so-Great Britain, this is a Muslim area. We are vigilantes implementing Islam upon your own necks.” A collective Western “Brava!” goes out to the women who responded, instead of meekly complying, “I cannot believe it!” and “I am so appalled, this is Great Britain.”
Islamists certainly do not want the American public to consider the current international campaign to make inspection of Islamism a crime. In January, journalists and journalism students were invited to a conference in Istanbul where Turkish deputy undersecretary Ibrahim Kalin announced that the Turkish government “has been working on projects to have Islamophobia recognized as a crime against humanity.” Prime Minister Erdogan committed the Turkish government to “immediately start working on legislation against blasphemous and offensive remarks” and bragged that “Turkey could be a leading example for the rest of the world on this.”
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s secretary general, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu, is pushing for new “legal instruments” to deal with Islamophobia and plans “efforts to mobilize international support to deal with the issue.” In apparent coordination with efforts in the U.S. to suppress speech he “wants to mobilize the highest possible political support not only from OIC countries but also from the West.” At last week’s Twelfth Session of the Islamic Summit Conference, in Cairo, Ihsanoğlu commended “the adoption of Resolution 16/18 [the Istanbul Process] which condemns discriminatory practices against Muslims,” and he claimed that “the OIC has come to a crossroads in its search for radical solutions to hatred based on religion and belief” (emphasis added).
After the recent “Innocence of Muslims” YouTube controversy and the resultant Muslim riots, I visited a Southern California mosque and had a conversation with the chairman of its board. When I inquired as to his position on free speech he replied that the criminal punishment for offending Muslims should be equal to that for burning a mosque.
So far, America’s institutions have chosen to defer the moment that the culture must be defined and defended. Islamists have stepped into the void. For instance, at Islamists’ behest, the DOJ, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security have purged from counterterrorism manuals references to the connection between Islamic radicalism and jihadist terror. Many city- and county-level agencies have followed suit. If our law-enforcement agencies cannot stand up to the threat, how can we expect the media to?
Those who doubt the need to identify and engage this activist element should consider the words of Zuhdi Jasser, an American Muslim civil-rights leader whose family emigrated from Syria in pursuit of American liberty. In his autobiographical book, A Battle for the Soul of Islam: A Muslim Patriot’s Battle to Save His Faith, Jasser writes:
For the Islamists, total power is the ultimate goal. They will feign respect for “democracy” (e.g., elections), but ultimately their path is one that seeks to change the rules of the game to an Islamocentric system rather than one centered in reason, under God, with unalienable rights for all.
Caving to demands for speech codes dangerously skews political arguments and makes the voices of the censors only louder. When one side of the argument is censored or restrained, conspirators are allowed to perpetrate a fraud on the majority. This is exactly how Islamists have been selling Americans on the idea that sharia is soft, socially just, and not a threat to the American way. By maligning the use of the word “Islamist” and thereby suppressing inspection of Islamism, sharia advocates hope to dismiss as racist any who would challenge them.
It is not too late to frame the debate and press American Muslim leaders for honesty. Unapologetic and public conversations are key to defending American constitutional standards, and they demand clarity of terminology.
— Karen Lugo is co-president of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence.